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Identifying needs

  • Emma's diagnosis
    Ruth talks about her feelings when her daughter's severe disabilities were diagnosed.
  • Premature birth
    Harvey's father talks about how his twins, Harvey and Lydia, survived birth at 25 weeks.
  • About Marley
    Marley's mother talks about the many disabilities her adoptive son has suffered.

Listen to these parents talking about their experiences.
A stressful time

The initial period of finding out about a child’s disability is normally a highly stressful time for parents. They may be bewildered by what they are being told by professionals, and have little or no knowledge of what support they and their child are entitled to. Yet the earlier that a child with disabilities and SEN has access to appropriate support, the better the long term outcomes are
likely to be.

Legislation may enable provision for identifying and meeting needs to be made, but in 'real life' there are many reasons that things may not be straightforward. Inconsistency between authorities and service providers may mean that while a child has certain legal rights, these may not have been exercised as early as would be desired.

Legislation applying
to children
a pen lying flat on a document

Children with disabilities do not represent a distinct category within legislation and, therefore, are affected by:

  • Children's and education statutes; and
  • Disability statutes (that apply to adults as well as children).
After diagnosis
A brown gavel in use in a court of law

Following identification of a child's disability, the main contact for most parents is with medical and health professionals, although they also may already have contact with a social worker. Health services, typically through a health visitor, ensure that local authority children’s services are alerted, since it is that department that has a legal duty to provide services.

The legal framework for the majority of children's services lies within the Children Act 1989 and the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. However, other relevant legislation will be identified within this module.

Regulations and guidance made under these Acts outline the procedures and processes for assessing the needs of children and providing services to meet those needs.

Emerging needs

oung boy in protective headgear smiling
                  with teacher/assistant

At the beginning of this section, you heard Marley's mother, Janice, talk about her son.

In addition to his early disabilities, when Marley was three he had a stroke. Find out the answers to
these questions:

  • At that point, who would be supporting Marley's parents?
  • Who would take the lead in reviewing his needs and entitlements?
  • What changes in provision would you expect after Marley had a stroke?
  • Where would these be recorded?

Some suggestions